How about a little mailbag action to end the week?
Patrick in Hillsboro, Ore., writes: In regards to Kiper predicts SEC-heavy NFL draft, Alshon Jeffery really not going in the first round? I find that hard to believe. Any insight? Thanks, Patrick
Edward Aschoff: No real insight because Kiper is a draft guru and I trust his word, but I think that Alshon's 2011 season might hurt him in the draft somewhat. Remember, after his sophomore year everyone was talking about how he might challenge Justin Blackmon in this year's draft as the top wide receiver. However, by Jeffery's standards, he had a pretty pedestrian year … and he was still sixth in the SEC in receiving. Still, Jeffery is a tremendous athlete and should impress teams with his workouts before the draft. He's tough for just about any defensive back one-on-one and has underrated speed. Jeffery might be listed outside of the first round now, but scouts know what he can do and I think he'll find his way into the first round come draft day.
Troy in Anniston, Ala., writes: I understand that it takes about 2 years to learn Saban's defensive scheme. Do you think that with all the talent that Saban has brought in with recruits for the past 2 years will they be able win back to back NC. in 2012, or will it in up like the 2010 season with NO LEADERSHIP!!???
Edward Aschoff: While I do think that Alabama will have to find new leaders for this defense, I don't see this defense looking much like the 2010 squad. That defense had a knack for giving up the big play. I don't see that happening this time. It helps that most of the returners on this defense will be juniors and seniors. I'm not sure if I'll go as far as to say that Alabama repeats (it's just so dang hard to do that these days), but I think that Nick Saban will make sure this team is more prepared than the 2010 team.
Kyle in Gainesville, Fla., writes: How many games do you think the Gators win next year? I am predicting a 9-3 regular season with a bowl victory to get to 10 wins. I am also going to predict that the Gators defense finishes among the top 5 in the nation with Matt Elam winning the Jim Thorpe award (barely beating out the honey badger). Thoughts?
Edward Aschoff: You have some lofty expectations in there, but I like the confidence. The first two SEC games are on the road at Texas A&M and Tennessee, and neither of those will be easy. LSU is the other West opponent, while Georgia and South Carolina should be at the top of the SEC this season. Then there's Florida State on the road. We aren't sure what this Florida team is made of, but we know the offense has to have a complete makeover. If that doesn't happen, it could be another long year in Gainesville. I think the defense will be even better and that will go a long way to help the offense. Another top-10 defensive ranking quite possible and right now I'll go with eight wins in the regular season. Elam for the Thorpe? Don't see it, but he's probably Florida's best player.
Alex in St. Louis, Mo., writes: Where would you rank James Franklin on the list of SEC quarterbacks?
Edward Aschoff: Well, he enters as arguably the most talented dual-threat quarterback. After all, he did pass for 2,865 yards and ran for 981 yards. But that was in the Big 12. This is grown man football with big boy defenses. Based on his numbers he has to be near the top of the SEC, but it's hard to properly evaluate him because he didn't face SEC defenses week in and week out last year. People will hold that against him, but I think he can compete at this level. I'm pretty sure there would be more than a handful of SEC teams that would love to have him. With his athletic ability, playmaking skill and 2011 stats, I'll put him up there with the top quarterbacks heading into the season. It's up to him to stay up there once conference play starts.
John in Louisville, Ky., writes: Is there any hope that UK can compete in the SEC, football not basketball? It seems to me that the administration is content with football being a below average football team as long as they dominate in basketball. If that's the case shouldn't they switch conferences with UofL?
Edward Aschoff: I don't think there is any administration out there that doesn't care if the football program suffers. That's just silly. You have to realize that college football is the money maker for athletic departments. Yes, Kentucky football brings in more revenue than Kentucky basketball. So, I seriously doubt the administration will just watch as the football program decays. It's all about recruiting on a much higher level and changing the atmosphere around the program. Some confidence and leadership needs to be injected into that program. The culture isn't great there, but Kentucky can win games (look at 2007). The Wildcats made bowls for five straight years before last year, so it's not like this program hasn't done anything recently. As for switching … yeah, that's not happening. Expansion isn't all about football.
Wilbur in Cordova, S.C., writes: Based on what last season brought, do you think that the South Carolina Gamecocks have a chance to win the BCS Championship this year? And if they do, what is the chance of that happening?
Edward Aschoff: I think that if the defense stays on par with last year's performance and the offense improves, the Gamecocks have a chance to make some real noise in the SEC this year. And if you make noise in the SEC, you're probably making noise nationally, too. That means South Carolina will have to get by Georgia, Arkansas, LSU and maybe even Alabama. That's asking a lot, but it can be done. There certainly are questions. Will Connor Shaw build off the end of last season? Will Marcus Lattimore be his old self? Will a receiver step up? Get a yes out of those and there's no way you can count South Carolina out of making a special run. The Gamecocks can be viewed as a dark horse in 2012.
Skip in Pineville, Mo., writes: Low, you're a hack at best. The Arkansas coaching staff is number two in conference behind Bama. Les Miles is Houston Nutt with better players. Spurrier is a has been and could not beat Arkansas no matter where we played the game. Get your facts straight.
Edward Aschoff: To penalize Miles for having better players is just plain silly. So he had nothing to do with getting those better players? I guess he should have told all those studs to go somewhere else … Miles has 75 wins in seven seasons with LSU (10.7 per year), two SEC championships and has a national championship. He had his team on a historic run last year and his team beat eight ranked teams, even with all that drama surrounding LSU. Steve Spurrier took the Gamecocks to their first SEC championship in 2010 and guided South Carolina to its first 11-win season in 2011, without its original starting quarterback and one of the best running backs around in Lattimore. He also led South Carolina to its first bowl win in three tries. Arkansas has been very good under Bobby Petrino, but has no SEC titles and hasn't even been to Atlanta. The Hogs had a solid season last year, no question about it, but even you can admit that South Carolina was more competitive in its two losses than Arkansas. It's not like this was easy, but we felt Miles and Spurrier did more for their programs in 2012.